July 12: David Brainerd, Missionary

Not Works But Christ’s Merits Alone
by Rev. David T. Myers

From day one of this historical devotional, we have recorded several experiences of David Brainerd, the Presbyterian evangelist to the Indians in the early part of the eighteenth century in America. What made this young man go so courageously to their villages  and witness to the sovereign and saving grace of God in Christ? The only answer, beyond his call to do just that, was his own experience of saving grace and a desire to spread that message of eternal life.

David Brainerd was born on  April 20, 1718 to a religious family. Yet while ministers were among his relatives, he didn’t receive or respect the true way of eternal life. He thought almost all of his young life that salvation was through a life of good works. And he did live such a life.  Prayer, fasting, personal duties to God and man, all were his to show to God.  When he still couldn’t get any real peace with God,  he went to a spirit of real antagonism with this God of the Bible.

As he tells in his diary, he was irritated with the strictness of the divine law against sin. Then the condition of salvation by faith alone bothered him.  Couldn’t there be another way, he thought?  Then, just how does one find saving faith? He didn’t know, nor could he find faith at all.  Last, the sovereignty of God was a troubling idea to him.

All of these questions were answered on this day July 12, 1739 when God’s convicting Spirit fell upon him powerfully  and saved his soul.  Listen to his words in his celebrated diary: “By this time the sun was scarce half an hour high, as I remember, as I was walking in a dark thick grove, ‘unspeakable glory’ seemed to open to the view and apprehension of my soul.  By the glory I saw I don’t mean any external brightness, for I saw no such thing, nor do I intend any imagination of a body of light or splendor somewhere away in the third heaven, or anything of that nature. But it was a new inward apprehension or view that I  had of God; such as I never had before, nor anything that I had the least remembrance of it.  I stood still and wondered and admired.”

Now David Brainerd was qualified to take the unsearchable riches of the gospel to the tribes of hostile Indians.  Commissioned by the Scottish Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge, he served his blessed Lord and Savior for three years until on October 9, 1747, he went to glory.  But his diary has remained in print and has effectively influenced countless people with missionary zeal to spend and be spent with the call of the Lord to reach the unsaved people of the world with Christ and Him crucified.

Words to Live By: 
It may be that some of you readers have never responded to the gospel call of the Spirit of God.  It may be that some of you are still trying to claim that your religious works will save your soul.  Learn from the experience of David Brainerd of old that all the testimony of Scripture is that eternal life is only by Christ alone, through faith alone, by grace alone.  Repent, and believe the blessed gospel.

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